In the days after the Democratic Party’s collapse in the Virginia governor’s race, party strategists descended on the commonwealth to figure out what went wrong and understand just how bad the national outlook might be next year.
What they discovered, largely through focus groups and polling, was even worse than expected. The problems cut far deeper than the failings of their gubernatorial nominee, Terry McAuliffe, or President Joe Biden’s flagging approval ratings. Rather, the Democratic Party’s entire brand was a wreck.
“Voters couldn’t name anything that Democrats had done, except a few who said we passed the infrastructure bill,” the center-left group Third Way and its pollsters said in a report, obtained first by POLITICO, on focus groups they ran in Virginia.
And those were just the people who voted for Biden.
Less than a year ahead of midterm elections, in which even Democrats widely expect they will lose the House and, possibly, the Senate, the party is confronting an identity crisis. It isn’t just Biden’s cratering public approval ratings, inflation, or the precedent that the party in power typically loses seats in a president’s first midterm.